Bon Iver Album Review


Harrison Welsh ’17

The notorious indie band, Bon Iver, directed by Justin Vernon, has finally put out a project for which fans have been waiting nearly five years since their self-titled album in 2011. The 2008 debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, gained the group much attention and respect because of its originality and emotion presented from track to track. The debut was then followed by their self-titled LP, proving the group to be something special rather than just lucky. Justin Vernon has been one of the most respected characters in the music industry for years as his talents have been proved time and time again: he works on his own music while working with other artists, including The Staves, James Blake, and Kanye West, who described Vernon as his “favorite living artist.”

This new project titled, 22, A Million, is something else. Implementing newer instruments and effects including vocoders, pith correction, and even a synthesizer created by Justin and his engineer. Strange signs, numbers, and hieroglyphics on the cover art as well as in the song titles themselves, remain a mystery as no one can seem to make any sense of them. This album was well-anticipated before its release and has been well-received by fans and critics alike. Although the sound has shifted dramatically, the delicate harmonies, vulnerable lyrics, and immense amount of emotion that Justin delivers make the shift easy to adjust to, even for the biggest of Bon Iver fans. It starts out with the first single, “Over Soon,” which makes it clear this is not redoing what has already been done. The high-pitched singing comes close to chipmunk chatter but is somehow pretty cool. The lyrics hint at the theme of the album, Vernon’s thinking about the unbearable anxiety he has experienced since gaining worldwide fame and the frustrating role religion has played in these experiences. A couple songs pass by and the fourth, God, throws all negative criticism out the window. This song is perfect; it is a piece of heartfelt songwriting which exudes painstaking emotion. Even though this song is the high point of the whole album, the majority of the songs on it are barely behind. My favorites include “Creeks,” “God,” “Stratford APTS,” “Circle,” and “Million.” The only song I dislike is “45.” which I can’t find any value in.

Don’t let the change in sound and the weird signs all over the place turn you off to Bon Iver. It still protects the qualities that are the backbone of their art. If you haven’t already, you should give this album and their other albums a serious listen.